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The Million Pound Radio Show

The Million Pound Radio Show
Radio 4
Start: mid-eighties?; final series 1991
Recent one-off editions:
Christmas special, 1991
Election special, April 1992
Columbus special, October 1992
State of the Nation special, New Year’s Day 1994
Millenium special [sic], April 1996

This enduring 1980s show had a strong following and was part of Radio 4’s comedy backbone.  Its stars were Andy Hamilton and Nick Revell, who, besides appearing in Who Dares Wins and Friday Night Live, wrote for or were otherwise involved in a proliferation of radio and TV sketch series and sitcoms from the early eighties onwards.  Today, Andy Hamilton is best known as the co-writer of Channel 4’s newsroom sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey (to which Nick Revell has also contributed).  On radio, both have created and starred in their own sitcoms: Revell in The Nick Revell Show and more recently The House of the Spirit Levels, and Hamilton in three series of Old Harry’s Game.

The Million Pound Radio Show, like many shows which came after it, mixed sketches about all manner of subjects with crosstalk between the two frontmen and interviews with ‘guests’ played by the supporting actors.  These were originally Felicity Montagu and Harry Enfield; Enfield, of course, subsequently went on to television success, fame and fortune, and his place was taken by Jasper Jacob.  The material used in the series reflected the observational preoccupations of the Not the Nine O’Clock News generation (talentless celebrities, bad government, faulty escalators), but it also dipped its feet into the history of the world from time to time.  Although there have been no new series in recent years, the cast have frequently re-united for one-off special editions (see above).

Bizarrely, The Million Pound Radio Show has achieved a certain amount of fame outside its regular Radio 4 audience, thanks to an unassuming and fairly typical sketch about a band of mutinous pirates who demand a Training Day (pressing their captain for the chance to "compare work methods and prioritise objectives, damn your eyes!")  A number of people apparently telephoned the BBC to say this was the funniest thing they’d heard on the radio for years, and the sketch was repeated (following listener requests) on a compilation highlighting the best moments of that year’s programming, since when it has become a staple item on countless audio compilations and airline in-flight comedy channels.  It was even mentioned (with accompanying cartoon) on the front of the BBC Radio Collection cassette of the series.

See also: The Million Pound Radio Show (BBC Radio Collection 1993, ZBBC 1417, ISBN 0 563 406313)

© JB Sumner 1998, 1999.  Minor update 7/4/99